Climate change threatens Himalayan region

14:35, September 09, 2008

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the World Agroforesty Center, China (ICRAF-China) warned the global community on the impacts of climate change on the Himalayan water resources at a seminar on Asian Water Towers at the World Water Week in Stockholm held in August.

A joint ICIMOD/ICRAF-China seminar on Asian Water Towers was held as part of the World Water Week in Stockholm to raise awareness amongst the international community, to identify policy options strengthening the adaptation and resilience of the mountain people.

High-level representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan also presented their analysis from their respective points of view according to ICIMOD.

Global climate change according to data published by ICIMOD is causing a rapid melt down of snow and glaciers in the Himalayan region and the water from the Himalayan river systems flows into water basins with a total population of almost 1.3 billion.

"Warming in the Himalayan region has been much greater than global average. Both increasing and decreasing rainfall patters have been detected in the area. Weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable and extreme – dry seasons become dryer and wet seasons wetter. This phenomenon is causing concern over the long term reduction in total water supply, affecting lives and livelihoods of the Himalayan people, especially in agriculture practices and long term food security." According to a press statement issued by the organisation.

Dr. Andreas Schild, Director General of ICIMOD said that the signs of global climate change were visible, but the in-depth knowledge and data from the Himalayan region was missing. "There is an urgent need to increase scientific co-operation and regional collaboration to reduce this information gap."

He said that the policy orientation for the following lines of action should be considered. One should increase the capacity to manage risk and hazards affecting the most vulnerable people and increase the regional and trans-boundary cooperation to improve early warning systems.

People should promote integrated river basin and water management schemes, strengthen policies which enable the storage of surplus water during the monsoon and improve the availability of water during dry season.

He also suggests that people should promote the exchange of scientific data thus reduce uncertainty, and clarify the relation between economic growth, pollution and the receding cryosphere in the Himalayas.

"The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is the highest, most complex mountain region in the world. It extends more than 3500km over eight countries, from Afghanistan in the north-west to Myanmar in the south-east. The region ranges from the plateau regions of Tibet and other mountain areas of China, to the Ganges Basin in India, and has the upland watersheds of the ten major Asian river systems," he said.

Professor Xu Jianchu from ICRAF, China gave a Chinese perspective on Himalaya and its water resources.

The greater Himalayan region-the roof of the world contains the most extensive and rugged high altitude areas on Earth and the largest areas covered by glaciers and permafrost outside the Polar regions. The water resources from this area drain through nine of the largest rivers in Asia, in which basins more than 1.3 billion people find their livelihoods. The region and its water resources play an important role in global atmospheric circulation, biodiversity, irrigated agriculture, potential hydropower, as well as for the production of commodities exported to markets worldwide. The water resources of this region are currently facing threats from a multitude of driving forces. Global warming is severely impacting on the amount of snow and ice and thereby on downstream water availability in short and long term. Up to 50 percent of the average annual flows are contributed by snow and glacial melting.

By Xuefei Chen People's Daily Online correspondent in Stockholm.

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